December 2023 Connection


In 2005, I joined the Mount Union College Concert Choir as a freshman tenor. In our first week of rehearsal I learned an expectation of our choir that I grew to become most grateful for. Initially, however, I was shocked and terrified. By the end of our semester, in preparation for concerts and our annual January tour, all of our music had to be memorized. On the one hand, it felt about as possible as memorizing the phonebook. On the other hand, it made our sound as a choir, our trust in one another, and our confidence in ourselves all the greater!
Today, I happened upon a recording of a piece we sang for our 2005 winter concert. I hadn’t heard it in nearly 20 years and yet, as it played, I began to sing along with the 2nd tenors as if I’d memorized it yesterday. It’s remarkable what our memories are capable of, isn’t it?! And even as we age, and our memories struggle more and more to remember as they used to, the capacity and ability of our minds is astounding.
Looking back, I owe this experience to the expectation that our repertoire be entirely memorized. To do that required studying the scores again and again, attending sectional practices, preparing for weekly memory checks (nothing says, “Happy Friday!” like weekly tests), and pure determination. In other words, it took rehearsing the same thing over and over until it became muscle (or rather, voice) memory.
As you’re reading this, I suspect you’ve heard the nativity story before – you know, those passages from Matthew and Luke that tell us about Jesus’ birth in the town of Bethlehem. You’ve probably sang, or at least have heard the hymns “Away In A Manger” and “Silent Night.” Odds are also good that, if asked to draw a nativity scene, you’d probably be able to capture at least half of it correctly! And if all of this provides echoes of Luke chapter 2 being read by Linus and the rest of the Peanuts crew, reminding everyone about the true meaning of Christmas, well, there’s a reason for that. It’s been rehearsed in
your mind – in your faith – for a long time.
We sing the hymns, we tell the stories, we build the nativity scenes, we light the candles, and so much more, not simply because it’s all pretty and nostalgic. We do it because that’s how we rehearse it! And because we rehearse it, as if by osmosis, the story of God’s incarnated love in the form of a
child becomes part of our heart-language.
But we’re not done yet. Because knowing the story – knowing the song – only helps if we have the occasion to tell that story – sing the song. This Christmas, I want to encourage you to leave the rehearsal studio and find an occasion to sing the song. Find a moment – perhaps even with an unexpecting
shepherd – and share the story. And in doing so, may we discover Christmas.
With Peace, Hope, Joy & Love,
Pastor Brian
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p.s. For anyone wondering, the piece of choral music I wrote about is titled “Almighty and Most Merciful Father.” The arrangement that we sang was composed by William Henry Harris. If you’d like to hear a recording, please click on the link here.